Round seven of the TA2 championship was held at the beautiful Mid Ohio road course and like the track our race weekend was up and down with highs and lows.
Our Stevens-Miller Racing, Berryman, Liqui Moly, usaautomotivesupply.com, PREFIX powered team fielded three cars. We’re the only team in the paddock to field a Camaro, Mustang and Challenger all PREFIX powered.
The team featured regulars Ethan Wilson in the new Berryman, Liqui Moly, usaautomotivesupply.com, Mustang, Anthony Honeywell in his trusted Honeywell Competition, PREFIX powered, Camaro and new to the team Brian Swank in the number eleven Berryman, Liqui Moly, usaautomotivesupply.com, PREFIX powered Dodge Challenger.
Paired this weekend with the NASCAR Xfinity series the entry list featured drivers from NASCAR teams Penske, Chip Ganassi and Stewart Haas, as well as “Awesome Bill from Dawsonville” Bill Elliott along with TA points leader Ernie Francis Jr. With a stacked field the Stevens-Miller Racing team knew this was going to be one tough race.
Wilson now having the 2018 Rookie of the Year sewn up was excited to debut the new Berryman Mustang. After three rounds of practice and a number of set up changes the Berryman Mustang was ready, willing, and able for qualifying.
After a brief rain delay the Trans Am2 field took to the drying track. Immediately Wilson started laying down top five times. With the track getting faster every lap Wilson put in his fastest laps of the weekend and was on a charge when his new steed developed a misfire ending his qualifying effort.
Wilson said later “I was about to throw down a flier when the misfire started-the car felt fantastic. The team’s changes had given me a car I could put in the top five and I was ready to give us our best starting position of the year. I’m disappointed for the team I knew they had done everything to give me this opportunity.”
Meanwhile “The Honey Badger” Anthony Honeywell in his number 76, Honeywell Competition, PREFIX LS3 powered Stevens-Miller Racing Camaro was also showing signs of having the best weekend of his season. At the end of qualifying Honeywell’s time put him 12th just behind Wilson an excellent effort considering there were five of NASCAR’s best new faces plus Francis in the field this weekend.
New to the series our third driver Brian Swank decided he was not ready for the mixed conditions and sat out qualifying accepting his fate of having to start at the back on race day. He said, “I’ve only had a couple of days in the car and there was no since in risking it. The team has worked their butts of to give me this opportunity and you have to respect their effort and the equipment. As they say “sometimes caution is the better part of valor.”
After several hours of pouring over the data and inspecting the electronics Team owner Joe Stevens and PREFIX’s manager of drivetrain development Rick Talbot discovered Wilson’s Mustang had problems more severe than expected. With the discovery the new Mustang was put back in the stall for another day. Ever prepared, the Stevens-Miller team rolled out the bright orange Berryman Dodge Challenger but due to the change Wilson was demoted to the back to start alongside his teammate Swank in the second Berryman Dodge.
At the drop of Saturday’s green Wilson was a man on a mission instantly putting in times equaling the leaders. In just ten laps Wilson had his Berryman, Liqui Moly, usaautomotivesupply.com, PREFIX powered #49 Dodge in the top ten. Three laps later he was eighth and closing fast on seventh running as much as a half second a lap faster than those ahead.
Wilson’s charge through the field gained the attention of the announcers and the thousands of fans in what was easily his best performance of the year-then once again mechanical gremlins struck. This time a failed differential brought his drive to an end. The highs and lows of Ohio had struck again.
Truly an “Oh-high-low” of a weekend Wilson summed it up, “We were right there-I had just settled down for the middle of the race saving my tires for the end. I could feel it-the car was right and the team did a fantastic job. As they say “racing happens” on this weekend it was not meant to be. We’ll be back at Road America. I’m gaining confidence with every race and I can’t wait to get back in the car.”
While Wilson was hitting his low Honeywell was hitting a new high. Now up to seventh and having a tremendous battle with Trans Am points leader and winner of the earlier TA race Ernie Francis Jr. Honeywell was showing what he is made of. Lap after lap the two went at it-the announcer following them every corner-up over the curb, side by side, and to the finish the “honey badger” not only held off Francis Jr. but also took home his third win in the North division solidifying his points lead and needing but one race to take the championship.
After the race Honeywell said, “There was no way I was going to let Ernie by… he’s one hell of a driver but I knew I had the faster car. It was a great battle. I’m not sure how many laps we went at it-but it felt like forever. I have to thank the entire team for their hard work. We tested here and everything we did paid off. Now I have to get to one more race. After my big wreck at Detroit it’s tough to put the funds together but I’m in it to win it, so here we go!”
Newcomer to TA2 — had an eye-opening weekend. Despite his years of short track experience the heat, humidity, and the lack of a working water bottle made it very difficult and was unable to finish. “All and all a fantastic experience, the team is wonderful-the people, the effort, everything. They made us feel welcome and part of the family. My wife and I really enjoyed it. We’ll be back for sure.“